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Posted on November 16, 2012

The following is an excerpt from The United States of PILCH, a blog by Nathan MacDonald, an Australian attorney traveling in the United States.

I have said goodbye to Chicago and have made it south to Atlanta, Georgia. This is a visit I’ve been looking forward to for some time, as many of my counterparts across the United States have said that I ought to see firsthand the work of the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, an organisation that that works with limited resources however bats well above its average by providing outstanding legal support for Georgia’s nonprofit sector.

Arriving at the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s office I was worried that its reputation created unreasonable expectations, however it didn’t take long for me to understand why this group has such a strong name in the pro bono sector. Working out of a donated office space within a upper tier commercial law firm in Midtown Atlanta, Pro Bono Partnership operates with minimal staff, but strategically leverages its resources to be a big player in the nonprofit and legal community in Georgia.

L-R, Dawn Murray (House of Dawn), Barbara
Duffy (North Fulton Community Charities), Denise
Leak (Joseph and Sarah Caring for Vets),
and Drew Benton (Project Live Love)

The majority of my time in Atlanta was spent with Rachel Spears, Executive Director of Pro Bono Partnership. I’d heard about ‘southern hospitality’, and Rachel and her team certainly lived up to the hype, welcoming me from the moment I walked through the door. After a tour of the office and a discussion with the staff on the various aspects of the service, Rachel and I talked shop over some authentic southern soul food – fried chicken, collared greens, black eyed peas and sweet tea… both the discussion and the food was amazing!

Perhaps it is because of the smaller size of the organisation, however I feel as though Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta does a lot of things in a simple yet extremely effective manner. In particular, their use of webinars and face-to-face workshops to deliver education and training to the community sector is terrific. Each month a webcast is delivered free of charge to registered viewers (either in-house or through the use of a volunteer attorney), and that recording will generally stay on the website as a new resource for the community sector’s benefit. They also aim to provide two face-to-face workshops a month – an amazing education campaign that simply would not be possible were it not for the pro bono support of volunteer attorneys in Atlanta, and the ability for Pro Bono Partnership to harness and leverage that philanthropic spirit. A full list of webcasts and workshops previously offered by Pro Bono Partnership is available here.

I was also very interested in the use of a quarterly clinic facilitated by Pro Bono Partnership using in-house attorneys to provide nonprofits with a legal ‘check-up’. This is a model I’ve seen in several other organisations throughout this trip, however Pro Bono Partnership’s links with in-house attorneys appears particularly strong, and this clinic model serves to foster those relationships. I absolutely love the idea of broadening our engagement with corporate in-house lawyers through PilchConnect – the legal issues we deal with for our clients are typically in the ‘wheelhouse’ for these attorneys (contract law, industrial relations, insurance, intellectual property etc), and we have the chance to provide corporate counsel with meaningful pro bono referral opportunities that are both challenging and fulfilling, as well as valuable to the community sector. On a side note, I hadn’t realised Atlanta was the home of Coca-Cola (there is even a Coke museum here), and I’m really impressed by this company’s philanthropic support of the nonprofit sector, including extensive pro bono contributions from their in-house legal team working with Pro Bono Partnership (note: if Pepsi is reading this, I’m sure you’re great too).

That afternoon Rachel took me to an information session she was facilitating at a local community college titled ‘Myths and Realities of Starting and Running a Nonprofit‘. The workshop involved Rachel leading a panel discussion with four of Pro Bono Partnership’s clients, sharing their experiences with an audience about starting and operating a nonprofit organisation. After speaking with so many pro bono attorneys, both nonprofit and commercial throughout this trip, it was great to hear from the clients’ perspectives, and I found it really inspiring to see what these individuals have achieved after identifying an unmet need in the charitable sector. Of the panel of speakers, Dawn had started a shelter for teenage mothers, Denise manages a home for veterans at risk of homelessness, Drew runs a group that promotes volunteerism in the community, and Barbara manages a community support service in the outer suburbs of Atlanta.

Each of these panelists makes amazing contributions to society through their respective organisations, assisting some of the most marginalised people in their communities, and it was great to be present in the room as they told their stories. In each of the presentations, the speakers noted the critical role of pro bono legal representation for their respective organisations, and it brought home to me the amount of hats these people are forced to wear when forming and running a nonprofit. Easing the burden of legal and regulatory compliance through pro bono support makes an incredible difference to the survival of such groups, and while it is ‘behind the scenes’ work that isn’t always publicly recognised, the work that volunteer attorneys do to support the visions of these individuals is priceless.

I loved hearing the client stories throughout this workshop, and as a result I am determined to do better at capturing the feedback of the nonprofit groups we assist at PilchConnect. While these stories serve as valuable resources when it comes to funding applications and outcome measurement, it also reminds us community lawyers why it is that we do what we do, providing valuable perspective to keep us on track.

Reading back, this post seems a bit overly positive, however it’s a reflection of me feeling recharged after a terrific visit with Rachel and the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s team. Towards the end of the visit, Rachel mentioned that she was amazed at the similarities between our two organisations despite being on other sides of the globe. We each grapple with the same challenges, share the same successes and have evolved along a remarkably similar path. That said, I think Pro Bono Partnership does a lot of things better than us right now, including providing a simple clear message about who they are, and what they do. I have some great ideas about branding and improving our message upon my return, with thanks to our friends in Atlanta.

My final observation from Georgia is that the term “ya’ll” is used interchangeably with a lot of words down here, and in my view has real appeal. I’ve already found myself using it in my vocabulary, and while it may be some time before it becomes accepted during courtroom pleadings, I’ll be sure to bring it back with me to share with ya’ll soon.

Posted on October 8, 2012

Fall is bringing changes to Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. First, we have a recent addition to our staff – our new part-time paralegal, Laura Moore. We want to thank the Corporate Counsel Section of the State Bar for providing the initial funding for the position. You can find out more about Laura, including her favorite football team, in the article below.

In November, Frank Landgraff will pass the reins as PBPA Board Chair to Rick McMurtry of Turner Broadcasting System. In addition to being a longstanding PBPA Board Member, Rick is also a dedicated pro bono lawyer. He was recently profiled as August Volunteer Attorney of the Month on georgiaadvocates.org. You can see his profile here.

Finally, we will soon say goodbye to Andrea Pendleton, our Manager of Nonprofit Relations, who will be joining the staff of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta as Campaign Manager on October 15. Andrea has been with PBPA for over 5 years and she will be sorely missed, especially by me.

Rachel

Posted on October 8, 2012
Marion Tilson of AT&T (left) and Lisa Williams of Circle of Friends

When Marion Tilson first spoke with her new client Lisa Williams, she had no idea that the pro bono matter she was handling for Lisa’s nonprofit organization was the 3000th matter placed by Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta. Neither did we, until we went back and checked our records. But it’s not a surprise that Marion and Lisa were involved in this monumental matter. Marion, an attorney with AT&T, regularly volunteers for projects through PBPA and Lisa’s organization, Circle of Friends, has sought assistance from PBPA on many occasions.

Lisa recently contacted PBPA seeking an attorney to review several contracts for Living Water for Girls, a program of Circle of Friends. Living Water for Girls rescues, rehabilitates and restores the lives of young American girls who have survived human sex trafficking and exploitation. Several colleges have offered to provide free admission to young women in the Living Water for Girls program. The colleges have prepared agreements that lay out each party’s obligations and Lisa wanted an attorney to advise her. Marion, whose expertise is in contracts, was happy to help an organization with such a compelling mission.

Marion has volunteered for 11 PBPA projects since 2011 and was recognized as Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta Corporate Volunteer Attorney of the Year in January 2012. Lisa has been recognized many times for her efforts in founding and running Circle of Friends, including by CNN and by L’Oréal as a 2011 Woman of Worth.

Lisa says of PBPA attorneys like Marion, “they are invaluable and have helped tremendously with Living Water for Girls’ mission…. PBPA attorneys are, quite frankly, the best of the best. Their willingness to volunteer and share their knowledge, skills and abilities with nonprofit organizations like mine mean that we can continue to devote our limited resources to assist those we serve. PBPA involvement with our organization has no doubt helped to keep our doors open and to save the lives of 57 young girls. We are extremely grateful for their ‘can-do’ spirit and the hundreds of attorneys who have answered the call to serve.”

For PBPA, the 3000th pro bono matter is another exciting milestone. Since the organization started seven years ago, almost 1800 attorneys have volunteered to help nonprofits with their legal needs. Who will be our 2000th volunteer?

Posted on October 8, 2012
Laura Moore, PBPA’s Paralegal

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta is pleased to welcome Laura Moore to the staff as Paralegal. Originally from Alabama, Laura has lived in Atlanta for the past eight years. Prior to joining PBPA, Laura worked as an immigration paralegal for Paul Hastings and Seyfarth Shaw.

As Paralegal, Laura is responsible for reviewing the status of ongoing legal matters and ensuring that PBPA’s volunteers and clients have a positive experience. In addition to coordinating PBPA’s workshops, webcasts and Nonprofit Legal Check-Up events, Laura prepares and circulates PBPA’s monthly Volunteer Opportunities and Nonprofit Notes.

Laura learned about PBPA from her husband, Bret Moore. Bret, an attorney and longtime PBPA volunteer, received the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta 2010 Corporate Volunteer of the Year Award. She and Bret have two young daughters.

Laura received her B.A. in Political Science from Birmingham-Southern College. She enjoys reading, working in the family’s garden and watching University of Alabama football.

Posted on October 8, 2012

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta volunteers provided more than $2.3 million worth of legal services to Atlanta nonprofits last year. The time and talents of our attorney volunteers make a big difference to the nonprofits they serve. Below are some “shout outs” to our volunteers from their appreciative nonprofit clients:

To: Beth Mullican of Hunton and Williams
From: Center for the Visually Impaired
“It is people like you who make it possible for agencies like CVI to both stay current with the changing legal environment and at the same time maximize the dollars available for meeting our mission. We are in your debt.”

To: Michael Dubus of GE Energy
From: Clarkston Development Foundation
“I just wanted to express again my sense of gratitude for your legal assistance this year. We are in a much better place now because of your work! It was a true gift and we are so thankful.”

To: Will Barnette and Barbara Squires of The Home Depot and Brad Odom of King & Spalding
From: Center for Financial Independence and Innovation
“I cannot even begin to express my gratitude. Thank you for your determination, hard work and patience. I am very grateful!”

To: Bill Osterbrock of Baker Donelson
From: Project Live Love
From: “Bill Osterbrock was a pleasure to work with. He helped us develop several contracts that we needed. I loved his commitment to making sure each detail of our projects was gone through. Additionally, he made sure I understood each part of each contract we were developing.”

To: Rick McMurtry of Turner Broadcasting System
From: Soccer in the Streets
“Thanks again for all of your help, advice and patience. It really helps to have an expert to guide you through the process and it really put my mind at ease once you explained everything.”

Posted on October 8, 2012
Flood student volunteers prepare a meal at The Garden

Since 2008, Flood Student Community Missions has spent almost 10,000 hours serving the community. Directed towards involving middle and high school students to serve their local elderly, disadvantaged, homeless and youth citizens, Flood enables young students to become leaders with a positive impact on society.

Based in Alpharetta, the organization serves metro Atlanta with small events and all day serving projects, what they call short term missions. However, Flood not only affects those that are being served; they influence the teenagers that serve as well. Because the organization’s model relies on youth to take steps to enrich the community, students are taught to care about their surroundings and invest their time and attention to help others.

The organization uses high schools to recruit students and raise awareness for social injustices that are prevalent locally and statewide. Flood created what they call “Chapters”, a way for students to get involved and have a tight knit community at their local high school. Thirteen high schools in North Fulton and Forsyth counties have a Flood Chapter. Each Chapter has a team of student leaders along with a teacher sponsor and an adult outside of the school who serves as the Chapter Coordinator. A cluster of four to six schools in a specific geographic area are led by a cluster leader.

Kimberly Scales, the executive director, is the face behind this small yet thriving organization. Along with the help of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s volunteer attorneys, Scales was able to create the high school chapter model that is now a crucial part of the organization.

“So many areas of our organization needed legal assistance that we could not support financially. They have made “hard” things easy as they have helped us set up key pieces to our infrastructure,” says Kimberly.

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta has matched Flood Student Community Missions with several volunteer attorneys. Thank you to Margaret Kochuba of Paul Hastings, Ian Wasser, Christopher Chan, and Ann Battle of Sutherland, Sarah Hess of Alston & Bird, William Ewing of Barnes & Thornburg, and Lawton Hawkins of The Coca Cola Company.

Posted on June 20, 2012
ACC May Lunch-PBP Check (L-R:Rachel Spears (PBPA),
Scott Burton (Sutherland), Michael Fong (Recommind),
Brett Lockwood (Smith Gambrell & Russell) and
Geoff Frost (Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore)

The 2012 Association of Corporate Counsel-Georgia Chapter (ACC-GA) Value Challenge event raised $31,000 for Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBPA). Sutherland, Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, Smith, Gambrell & Russell and Recommind sponsored the Value Challenge, which was presented on March 29, 2012 with over 100 attorneys in attendance.

The funds raised at the Value Challenge event represent almost 10% of PBPA’s 2012 budget. ACC-GA has raised almost $250,000 for PBPA in the last six years through annual fundraising events.

The ACC-GA Value Challenge event combined CLE presentations and breakout sessions that encouraged in-house counsel to discuss best practices for connecting the value and the cost of legal services. The Value Challenge saw participation from a wide array of in-house attorneys from metro-Atlanta based corporations, including UPS and GE Energy.

Faith Knight Myers, Lead Privacy Counsel at McKesson, participated in the event and commented, “it very well done. Substantively, all of the presenters discussed topics that were relevant to me. It was well worth my time.”

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta thanks ACC-GA and its president Martha McMillin for their continued support, financial and otherwise, of our mission to maximize the impact of pro bono engagement of in-house attorneys.

Posted on June 20, 2012

The Coca-Cola Company – ABA Business Law Section’s 2012 National Public Service Award
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP – State Bar of Georgia ABC Pro Bono Business Law Award
Timothy B. Phillips –Atlanta Business Chronicle Corporate Counsel Award for Community Champion

Henry Walker and Debbie Segal of
Kilpatrick Townsend accept pro bono award

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta would like to congratulate The Coca-Cola Company, Kilpatrick Townsend, and Timothy Phillips on their 2012 pro bono awards.

Each year, the ABA Business Law Section’s National Public Service Award recognizes an individual business lawyer, a law firm, and/or a corporate law department for demonstrating significant pro bono services. Executive Director Rachel Epps Spears nominated The Coca-Cola Company for the award based on its sustained commitment to proving pro bono legal services to the poor through a variety of programs, including Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBP-Atl). The Coca-Cola Company played a pivotal role in founding PBP-Atl in 2005 and since that time, 55 Coca-Cola attorneys and paralegals have advised clients of PBP-ATL on almost 150 legal matters. In 2011 alone, Coca-Cola attorneys worked on 25 different pro bono projects for nonprofits. Coca-Cola’s attorneys and paralegals have provided free legal advice to nonprofits such as the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta, Fugees Family (an organization that teaches life skills to refugee children through soccer), and Voice Today (a nonprofit that works to protect and heal women from sexual abuse).

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta would also like to recognize Kilpatrick Townsend on receiving the State Bar of Georgia A Business Commitment Pro Bono Business Law Award. Over 140 attorneys in Kilpatrick Townsend’s Atlanta office have volunteered on over 240 different pro bono projects through PBP-Atl. Kilpatrick Townsend attorneys have volunteered their time for nonprofits such as Caminar Latino (a domestic violence intervention program for Latino families), Foster Childrens’ Foundation and Embraced Atlanta (an organization that provides orthopedic and prosthetic devices to low-income individuals, Enchanted Closet (a non profit that provides prom dresses to teens).

Elizabeth Finn Johnson of The Coca-Cola Company accepts pro bono award

Finally, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta congratulates Timothy Phillips for winning the 2012 Atlanta Business Chronicle Corporate Counsel Award for Community Champion. This award recognizes a corporate counsel who has performed excellent corporate work and made significant contributions in pro bono work. As Senior Counsel and now Interim Chief Counsel with the American Cancer Society, Tim has taken on more pro bono matters through PBP-Atl than any other volunteer. He has advised over 30 nonprofits on legal issues related to their tax-exempt status including Georgia Justice Project, Habitat for Humanity DeKalb and Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network. Notably, the other finalists for the Community Champion Award are also outstanding PBP-Atl volunteers and supporters: Elizabeth Finn Johnson of The Coca-Cola Company and Teri McClure of United Parcel Service.

“We see our volunteers give generously of their time and expertise every day. It’s wonderful when they get recognition from others for the important work that they do,” said Rachel Epps Spears.

Posted on June 20, 2012

Please take a minute to check out our new website! Kyle McEntee, our legal fellow, engineered a complete revamp, including:

• A current list of available volunteer opportunities is posted at http://www.pbpatl.org/for-attorneys/volunteer-opportunities. No need to wait for the monthly email to volunteer!
• Our extensive Resources section now includes a search function.
• Through the Special Alert on our homepage, we can post breaking news such as: PBP-Atl is taking applications for a new part-time paralegal position. [By the way, pass this along to any paralegals you know.]
• Photos are easier to update so please send us pictures. As you can see from the website, short and wide photos work best.
• Click on “Upcoming Events” to learn about our free workshops and webcasts for nonprofits.

We would not have our fantastic new website without Kyle’s assistance. Since graduating from Vanderbilt Law School a year ago, Kyle has been working for us as a legal fellow, receiving a small stipend from Vanderbilt. In addition to his work on the website, Kyle has provided direct assistance to clients and partnered with our volunteers on projects. When he is not busy at PBP-Atl, Kyle works as Executive Director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that works to improve consumer information concerning the value of legal education.

Rachel

Posted on June 20, 2012
Volunteers loading soap to be shipped.

Hotels in the United States discard an estimated 2.6 million bars of soap every day. Around the world, there are over 45 million people with limited or no access to clean water or soap, leaving them susceptible to life-threatening illnesses.

Three years ago Derreck Kayongo and his wife Sarah, former Kenyan refugees, recognized the potential in what Americans throw out every day to save the lives of refugees and vulnerable populations. From their dreams and dedication emerged The Global Soap Project. What started as a small venture in the Kayongo’s Atlanta basement, is now an organization partnered with more than 300 hotels. With the help of these hotels, The Global Soap Project generates over 100 tons of recycled soap for suffering communities in nine countries.

The organization collects soap in mass quantities from hotels and is then processed by volunteers at Global Soap Project’s warehouse in Georgia. At the warehouse, a machine is used to filter out dirt and particles from the soap, and finally, the soap is sent to a laboratory and screened for pathogens before being shipped around the world.

The Global Soap Project’s work has garnered much deserved international attention. Kayongo was recently recognized as a Top 10 Finalist for the 2011 CNN Hero Award. Along with the help of volunteer attorneys through Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, the organization has been able to focus their attention on helping those in great need.

“With their help, we’ve been able to improve the structure of our volunteer program and soap making operations. They’ve saved us considerable time and money – two resources that are critical to our success,” says Sam Stephens, executive director of The Global Soap Project.

Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta has worked with The Global Soap Project on a wide variety of projects. For example, Ashley Herd of Meyer Moser Lang advised the organization on hiring an executive director, and Alex Fonoroff and Sabina Vayner of Kilpatrick Townsend are currently assisting Global Soap Project with international trademark protection. Stacey Turner of Georgia Power, Sloane Perras of Aaron’s and Luanna Petti have also donated their time and talents to help the Global Soap Project.